waste not, want not

livinglagom.com - waste not, want not

Happy Earth Day Earthlings!!!

To celebrate Earth Day, this past weekend I helped pick up litter at my local park. I enjoy hanging out there, so I thought I’d raise a hand to keep it clean. And tonight, I’m going to see the documentary Trashed at an independent cinema.

Honest to goodness, Earth Day is one of my favorite “holidays” of the year. Call me crazy, but I’m a big fan of our planet.

Do you know who else I’m a big fan of? Bea Johnson over at Zero Waste Home. She recently published a book on how she’s transitioned to a (mostly) Zero Waste life and how we can too. Though I don’t buy many books these days, I bought hers. The ebook version of course.

I knew it was going to be good before I even read it, as I’ve followed Bea’s blog for a few years now. As much as this book is about reducing our environmental footprint, it’s also great for those budding minimalists / lagomists that are looking to declutter their spaces.

the FIVE rs

Bea introduces us to two new Rs: Refuse and Rot. The key is to ALWAYS apply the five Rs in the below order:

REFUSE | anything that we don’t need

Say you attend a conference where they’re giving out those lame branded tchotchkes, like pens, notepads, t-shirts, etc. Instead of mindlessly accepting these items, you’d say, “No, thanks. I’m a lover of the Earth!” Okay, maybe not that last part. (Though I would totally say that.)

When we take these items with us, we’re encouraging marketers in their wasteful practices. So ask yourself: Am I really going to use this? Is it worth the time and space it’ll take up in my life? If the answer is no, don’t take it. And then apply that thinking to all other areas of your life.

I love this new R.

REDUCE | what we do need

This is where us minimalists / lagomists excel. The goal is to get rid of anything that we currently own that we aren’t using or don’t love. If we find we have multiples of items, perhaps owning just one is enough. Or if we only use something a couple of times a year, maybe borrow it from someone else when we do need it, instead of owning one of our own. This is what I do when I need to use an iron or printer.

It also means buying items with the least amount of packaging. Think bulk bins.

REUSE | what we consume

Normally, this R may encourage hoarding those “just in case” items we may find a use for sometime in the future. But not now! Since we’re following the Rs in order, we would’ve already refused and reduced those items we don’t need and aren’t already using. So hoarding is not allowed.

However, it does mean that we would have some additional items on hand such as reusable mugs, cloth napkins, enviro bags and glass containers, instead of using wasteful disposables. This is where our good friend mason jars play a starring role.

Now if you’re the type of minimalist that likes to keep count of your possessions, then owning these reusable items will increase your total. But remember, consumables take up space too, even if they aren’t counted. Make the switch.

RECYCLE | what we can’t refuse, reduce or reuse

As you can see, there is less emphasis on this R, which is what most people focus on. Sometimes we recycle to feel like we’re actually doing something to help the planet. And sometimes, it’s the only thing we do. But recycling should really be considered a last resort after we have refused, reduced and reused.

Though it’s important to think about recycling when we’re making new purchases. We should take into consideration whether the item will be recyclable once its useful life is over and choose items accordingly.

ROT | compost the rest

A significant part of our trash consists of compostable materials (e.g. food scraps, paper products, etc.). By composting and following the other Rs, we’ll begin to see our trash bin contents decrease greatly. If this option is available to us, we should definitely partake.

first crawl, then walk the talk

The five Rs are a simple way of thinking about the things that we bring and have in our lives. We aren’t going to be perfect from day one, but as I’ve said before, practice makes perfect-ish. As we practice being conscious of our decisions, we’ll get better and better at making them.

Bea didn’t start out being Zero Waste. It has taken her years to get to where she is today. And it’s not like she no longer cares about such things as fashion or make-up. She’s just changed the choices she makes in those areas.

I know Bea sometimes gets flack on her blog for being considered too extreme by some or not being extreme enough by others, but I’m glad she’s persevered. I’ve learned so much from her.

I may not be able (or willing) to implement everything she suggests at this very moment, but I’m open-minded to the fact that I could one day. Heck, I never imagined that I’d own as little clothing as I do now, but I love it and wouldn’t want it any other way.

As Bea says:

“Living with less does not deprive your life; it improves it.”

How could I not be a fan?

Update: Having just watched Trashed tonight, let’s hope we’re all fast crawlers.